Robb Flynn Explains How Rap Influenced His Songwriting, Recalls Seeing Metallica for the First Time

Being the leader and frontman of Machine Head, Robb Flynn is in charge of the band’s creative output. Although the music itself has been a split effort between most band members, Flynn’s the one who does most of the lyrics. And, according to what he said in a recent chat with Kaza Gastão, there’s one particular thing that sets him apart from other metal vocalists and writers.

Speaking of the creative side of things and how lyrics are written, Flynn offered (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs):

“Lots of people throughout Machine Head have written lyrics. I write 90% of them, but I always ask the guys to add lyrics or ‘Read these and tell me if this sucks, or change it, or whatever.'”

ROBB FLYNN em Kaza! ⭐️ Entrevistado por Gastão Moreira ⭐️ ATIVE a LEGENDA!

“I think probably because I like rap and hip hop so much,” Flynn said, adding that he’s “very cognizant of where the rhyme placement is — probably more so than most metal singers.”

Yeah, that might feel controversial if you’re a metal musician, especially a leader of an influential band. But Robb gave one example of where being a rap fan really helped. He continued:

“In a song like ‘Game Over,’ the chorus says, ‘And you say that life is just a game and / Everyone who plays is just a pawn / And shame on me it went so long / How could I’ve been so wrong? / I’ve forever gone, colder / If life is just a game then / Game over.'”

Machine Head - Live Dynamo 1995 Full Concert

To clarify, the Machine Head frontman also said:

“That’s where those rhyme placements happen and, to me, that rhyme placement makes a flow and makes something that gets stuck in people’s heads because it’s not always just the last word.”

Elsewhere during the interview, Robb also reflected on his decision to become a musician. As he explained, this was something that he strived for since his youth.

” I love being onstage,” Flynn explained. “I wasn’t a very social person. I was very introverted. I was pretty quiet. And you know what? I was always crazy about music. I was always obsessive about music.”

Machine Head - Live in San Francisco (2015) [Catharsis Bonus DVD]

This might sound like a somewhat familiar story since — we can safely say — metal is full of introverted artists who found a way to express themselves through their work. And, of course, in a very loud way. Recalling his early love for music and enthusiasm for becoming a musician himself, he continued:

“I would just listen to records and memorize every word so that I could sing along with it when it came on the radio. Once I started playing music, I just loved it, man.”

Now aged 56, Flynn was in his late teens when he embarked on his journey as a musician. This was during the 1980s, the decade known for the massive expansion of the genre and the birth of different, often opposing, sub-movements. And for him, it was thrash metal. Explaining the importance of the subgenre on his development as a musician, Flynn added:

“I just happened to be a teenager growing up in the very infancy of thrash metal for no reason in particular. Granted, I didn’t live in the city, my friends and my family lived about 50 miles outside of the city, so about an hour away.”

Machine Head Graspop 2023

But despite not living in a city, he finally got the chance to see Metallica live back when they were in their early days. And, what’s more, the bill on that show featured a couple of other great names:

“First time I see Metallica, they were opening for Raven, and it’s Exodus, Metallica, and Raven, headlining at a 500-cap club called the Berkeley Keystone, and then there’s maybe 250 people.”

Metallica’s tour with Raven took place back in 1983 and early 1984, featuring about 50 or so shows. Two hundred fifty people in attendance may sound wild today, knowing how, not long after that time, Metallica blew up and started filling up stadiums. Looking back at his first time seeing the legends live, Flynn offered:

“We walk in, and the first person we see is James Hetfield. He’s at a bar stool signing autographs. We’re like, ‘What the f**k?’ No velvet rope, and we go up, handle him our thing, we get an autograph, and we’re like, ‘What the fuck? This is weird.'”

MACHINE HEAD - Live in New York City Feb 2020

“And then they go up, and they fucking kill it. And you always hear about the older bands always talking about, ‘I saw the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show and I started a band’, right? So that was my Beatles-on-Ed-Sullivan-moment.”

Flynn formed Machine Head in the early 1990s, releasing the debut album “Burn My Eyes” in 1994. The band’s music was often described as groove metal and was, to some extent, compared to Pantera. Machine Head’s latest album as of this moment is 2022’s “Of Kingdom and Crown.” This marked the first record in a long time without drummer Dave McClain and guitarist Phil Demmel.

Photos: Factor Metal (Machine Head en Colombia (17746680883)), Kreepin Deth (James Hetfield live in Amsterdam 29 April 2023)


  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.